From Anand Parthasarathy
February 19 2022: Artificial Intelligence had many positives and a few negatives – but it could not be wished away, suggests Dr Arogyaswami Paulraj, Professor Emeritus at the department of Electrical Engineering of Stanford University, US and inventor of key wireless communication technologies.
He was addressing a webinar earlier this week, organized by the India International Centre in Delhi, as part of its diamond jubilee lecture series on Digital Governance. India-born, Dr Paulraj said banning AI was akin to banning smart phones or the Internet or the commercial jet aircraft – it was not possible. “It requires engagement by society – but we will come out on top. On balance it cannot and must not be ignored – but we must build some guard rails.”
AI offered the hope of significant economic and social benefits for India – increased labour productivity, higher GDP growth, better delivery of healthcare, the automation of hazardous or repetitive jobs …. But this will be accompanied by job displacements, losses at lower skill levels and gains at higher levels that may not be easy for a society to adjust.
It could also conceivably lead to increased wealth inequality – between nations, corporates and people. AI could be misused for mass population manipulation and polarization for political purposes – but the way to deal with such downsides was through public debate and the creation of apolitical watchdog bodies, Dr Paulraj said.
Seventy five years of independence have seen India achieve a steady 7% growth in GDP and emerge as the 5th largest car maker in the world and the source of over 35% of all generic drugs and pharmaceuticals. It had created a global brand in IT services and pioneered a universal identification system – and AI could help her sustain leadership in all these areas.
But for this to happen India’s share of the global core high tech sector needed to grow significantly – to say, 5% in the next one or two decades. And making AI work for all citizens was the central challenge, Paulraj suggested.
(This report was part of a broader piece carried at Swarajyamag)